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Open Access Short Report

Contextual and time dependent pain in fibromyalgia: An explorative study

Egil A Fors123*, Tormod Landmark3 and Øyvind Bakke4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, St Olav University Hospital, Trondheim, Norway

2 Department of Public Health and General Practice, Faculty of Medicine, General Practice Research Unit, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

3 National Competence Centre for Complex Symptom Disorders, St Olav University Hospital, Trondheim, Norway

4 Department of Mathematical Sciences, |Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:644  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-644

Published: 20 November 2012



Little is known about contextual effects on chronic pain, and how vulnerability factors influence pain in different contexts. We wanted to examine if fibromyalgia (FM) pain varied between two social contexts, i.e. at home versus in a doctor office, when it was measured the same day, and if pain was stable for 14 years when measured in similar contexts (doctor office). Our secondary aim was to explore if pain vulnerability factors varied in the two different contexts.


Fifty-five female FM patients were included in the study and scored pain in both contexts at baseline. Their age ranged between 21–68 years (mean 45.7), mean education level was 11 years and mean FM-duration was 15.6 years. Their mean pain was perceived significantly lower at home than in a doctor context the same day. However, pain was much more stable when measured in two similar contexts 14 year apart where 30 subjects (54.5%) completed. Predictor analyses revealed that pain vulnerability factors apparently varied by home and doctor contexts.


Pain and pain predictors seem to vary by contexts and time, with less pain at home than to a doctor the same day, but with unchanged pain in the same context after 14 years. Thus, contextual pain cues should be accounted for when pain is measured and treated, e.g. by focusing more on home-measured pain and by optimizing the doctor office context. This explorative study should be followed up by a larger full-scale study.

Fibromyalgia; Chronic pain; Context; Time; Long-term; Cohort; Explorative